The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rebeca Lerer: + 55 11 99681 9637
Tony Newman: 646-335-5384

Global Commission on Drug Policy Meets in Poland to Bring Debate to Eastern Europe

Global Commission Members, Including Four Former Presidents, To Gather in Warsaw Oct. 24-25


The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) will gather in Warsaw on 24th and 25th of October to highlight the impact of the war on drugs on public health in Eastern Europe and prospects for change around the world.

The Global Commission was convened in July 2010 and has been working to establish a road map for change in drug laws and policies. It is currently composed of 22 international leaders, including seven former presidents.

The GCDP meeting in Poland brings the debate to Eastern Europe, in order to focus on the dramatic human and social consequences of the prevailing hardline approach to drugs in the region. The meeting will include a roundtable organized by the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza to allow interaction with key media and stakeholders.

"It is a great honor for me to host such a renowned group of people. It is important to have the Global Commission's meeting held in this part of the world where drug use and HIV are still not discussed adequately and have such severe consequences", says Alexander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland and member of the GCDP.

In addition to looking at the drug war's impacts on the region, the agenda of the two-day meeting will consider the dynamics of change in Latin America, the US and Europe, and will explore how to expand the debate in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

Discussions in Warsaw will build upon the Global Commission's second report: 'The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: how the criminalization of drug use fuels the global pandemic', launched in June 2012. The report describes how the global war on drugs is driving the HIV pandemic among people who use drugs and their sexual partners. In Russia, for instance, one out of every one hundred adults is now living with HIV, according to some estimates, and injecting drug use accounts for the majority of new infections. Globally, drug use accounts for approximately 1/3 of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

Such linkages between drugs and HIV/AIDS and the engagement of the AIDS community are critical factors to promote this debate in Eastern Europe.

"Even the boldest leaders acknowledge that they cannot act alone or without support from their peers and from the public. Building critical mass, which is essential for the process of change to move forward, is the task at hand for the continued work of the Global Commission," states Fernando Henrique Cardoso, chair of the GCDP and former president of Brazil.

Background on the GCDP

On June 2011, the GCDP successfully launched in New York a landmark report with three major recommendations:

  • Acknowledge the failure of the 'war on drugs' and its disastrous impact on human rights, violence and corruption
  • Replace the criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs with the offer of health and treatment services to those who need them
  • Encourage governments to experiment with models of legal regulation to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard people's health and security. Start with cannabis.

This call for a paradigm shift - from compliance with a failed policy to open debate about viable alternatives, from prohibition to prevention, treatment and harm reduction - was reported widely by the global media, establishing the Commission's reputation as a global catalyst for change.

Over the last fifteen months, the Global Commission's engagement with political leaders, media and the public has had a substantive impact in Latin America. The taboo was broken and policy alternatives were put on the table by the Presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay. For the first time ever the issue of drugs was discussed at the Summit of the Americas held in Cartagena, Colombia, on April 2012, and there were initial signs of flexibility for debate coming from the Obama administration in the USA.

Recently the Global Commission has been strengthened by the engagement of former presidents Jorge Sampaio (Portugal), Alexander Kwasniewski (Poland) and Ricardo Lagos (Chile). This expansion is essential to build the Commission's capacity to meet the challenge of taking the debate about drugs beyond Europe and the Americas (complete list of commissioners below).

For more information contact:

  • GCDP Secretariat: Rebeca Lerer - Communications coordinator
    Phone: + 55 11 99681 9637/
  • In Poland: Maja Ruszpel - Global Drug Policy program Open Society Foundations / phone +48 515 665 815
  • In London: Patrick Gallahue - Global Drug Policy Communications Officer- Open Society Foundations / Office: +44 (0) 20 7031 1704 | Mobile: +44 (0) 77 8744 9476 /

Download the GCDP reports:

Follow the GCDP:

Members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Aleksander Kwasniewski
Former President of Poland
Asma Jahangir
Human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan
Carlos Fuentes
Writer and public intellectual, Mexico - in memoriam
Cesar Gaviria
Former President of Colombia
Ernesto Zedillo
Former President of Mexico
Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Former President of Brazil (chair)
George Papandreou
Former Prime Minister of Greece
George Shultz
Former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)
Javier Solana
Former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain
John Whitehead
Banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial, United States
Jorge Sampaio
Former President of Portugal
Louise Arbour
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, president of the International Crisis Group, Canada
Maria Cattaui
Former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland
Marion Caspers-Merk
Former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health, Germany
Mario Vargas Llosa
Writer and public intellectual, Peru
Michel Kazatchkine
Professor of medicine, former Executive director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria
Paul Volcker
Former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board, US
Pavel Bem
Former Mayor of Prague, member of the Parliament, Czech Republic
Ricardo Lagos
Former president of Chile
Richard Branson
Entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom
Ruth Dreifuss
Former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs
Thorvald Stoltenberg
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

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